“Those are real people”: Hamas captive’s family despair as hostage posters torn down across London

Posters of Hamas captives torn down in London is latest in series of similar incidents amid rise in antisemitism

Barney Davis
Friday 27 October 2023 21:27 BST
Smiling people rip down posters of kidnapped Israeli children in London's Leicester Square

The family of a headteacher held by Hamas has spoken of their sadness at seeing posters of kidnapped Israelis being ripped down across London.

Ada Sagi, a 75-year-old mother and grandmother, has not had contact with her family since she was believed to have been taken hostage from her home in a dawn ambush on Kibbutz Nir Oz on 7 October.

Her daughter-in-law Michel Sagi, who knows the organisers of the missing poster campaign, said her worst fears were realised when she saw the flyers being ripped down or defaced in a flurry of videos.

Smiling people tore down posters of kidnapped Israeli people in London’s Leicester Square, in one of several incidents this week

"Those are real people, lives that are being taken,” she told The Independent. "These people disappeared from life, for us to put up the posters, is us shouting out loud that they need to come home.

"Taking them out is inhuman - it’s like they are voting for more hate, more cruelty. Love needs to be much stronger.

"I don’t have any anger just real sadness. If they want a hug I will give you a hug but leave the posters there. I don’t want enemies.

“The posters are making a massive difference. And it shows the strength of our community that we keep putting them back up.

“They are an army of amazing young people [putting them up] it gives our family strength.”

A damaged poster on a lamppost in London after a pro-Palestine protest last weekend

Asked what she would say to Ada, Mrs Sagi said: “I would tell her we love her so much. She is my best friend and I know not many people say that about their mother-in-law. She always has the best advice.

“We know in our hearts that she is doing everything she can to communicate with the horrible people who captured her.

“She speaks Arabic so beautifully and loves peace.

“Whenever I think of her I see her taking care of the young kids, teaching them Arabic so they can communicate [with Hamas] and will help them be released. We think communication is the right way.

“She was supposed to be here [in London] for half term I told her to come a week before but she said she had to do things in Israel. I wish she had listened to me.”

A poster with an image of Ada Sagi, believed to have been taken hostage from the Nir Oz Kibbutz during the surprise attack on Israel by Hamas

‘Best friends’ Michel Sagi and Ada in happier times

Her plea came after people were filmed tearing down posters of children held captive by Hamas in a number of different incidents in London.

In one clip shared on social media, a man is seen ripping the images from a bus stop.

He shouts to a woman off camera: “Your government kills children every single day. Do not tell me about Hamas, Israel is a terrorist organisation.”

The unseen woman replies: “These are innocent kids.”

Noam has spent the weeks since his mother was kidnapped urging the British government to take action and prioritise the release of hostages

As the man continues, an elderly woman interjects: “How dare you tear that down. Shut the f*** up you w****r.”

While Metropolitan Police said it would be in the area carrying out “reassurance patrols”, it added that “at this time, no offences have been committed”.

In a separate incident, a notice featuring missing three year-olds Emma and Yuli Cunio was also vandalised in Camden, northwest London.

The pair were said to have been kidnapped from their home during the 7 October attacks. This week Hitler moustaches and a monobrow have been drawn over the children’s faces.

Another poster, of missing Silvia Ochayon, 58, was similarly defaced – and horns were added.

Burned cars next to homes that came under attack during a massive Hamas invasion into Kibbutz Nir Oz

The Mayor of London said he "simply doesn’t understand" why anyone would take down the posters, adding that it is "leading to community discord".

"It’s leading to Londoners who are Jewish being scared,” he said, “They’re feeling very vulnerable, the rest of us should show some understanding of what they are going through."

Mr Khan said that even if the threshold for the police to take action hadn’t been reached, he said it was "still in bad taste".

Noam Sagi, son of Ada Sagi, one of the missing Israelis speaks to people viewing the empty places laid out for the 220 hostages on Friday

"What I’d say to those who are tearing these posters down is, ‘stop it, there is no reason at all to tear these posters down, they’re doing no harm’.

"What we can’t afford to happen is for tensions and disturbance in the Middle East to affect our communities in London."

In the first two weeks of October, the force recorded 105 incidents of antisemitism – up from just 14 incidents during the same period last year.

Cases included intimidation outside synagogues and German military music being played loudly, to Jewish people being confronted by protesters “laughing about the numbers of deaths”.

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